Raising Tween and Teen Boys…From the Mom Who’s Winging It as She Goes
Disclaimer: The following has not been scientifically proven nor has it been FDA approved. This advice is currently in the testing stages of development and has been known to backfire. Results may vary. Some see improvement in a few days, some a few weeks and for others, years. Seek immediate and professional help for the side effects this advice may cause. Side effects include (but are not limited to): rise in blood pressure, feeling as though your brain may explode, thoughts of vacationing alone on a secluded beach, rambling rants that make no sense at all, and questioning your decision to have children. And, like all advice, take it with a grain of salt and an ounce of laughter.
After someone finds out I am a mother to five children can you guess the first question I am asked?
“How do you do it?!”
Anytime I meet someone new and it is revealed that I have five kids, not two or three, I see the look. I am used to the look. Each and every new person I meet gives me the look. Being used to the whole five kid thing, I used to take the look personally. Now, I know better. Five kids is a shock to those who believe that after kid number three, all subsequent children added to the family are aliens. I can say with 100% accuracy, “although the kids may at times act like alien life forms, all five children are in fact, human beings.” After the shock of five kids sinks into the mind of my new acquaintance, I usually hear “OMG! I can’t handle my [insert number of children here]. How do you do it?!” Usually I give the same (but true) answer: “you get used to it and to be honest, it is easier when the five are together then it is when a member of the group is missing.”
What I have come to realize is, I am asked parenting advice all the time. I am not quite sure why I, but I am. Being the (self proclaimed) genius that I am, I have decided to put together a list of what I do or say to keep my four boys, two tweens and two teens, in line.
Remember, this advice is subject to change. No refunds will be given.
Call those boys out. When the boys would do one of their chores and it wasn’t done correctly, I used to keep quiet and fix whatever it was myself. Then I caught on. The boys were doing everything half assed, knowing I was going to do it correctly for them. Times have now changed and I no longer correctly put the dishes in the cabinets or go back and re-vacuum the floors. Nope. I call their tweeny, teenage butts out and make them redo whatever it was they had to do. It took a couple weeks on their part (and me letting go of the notion that tile can be spotlessly vacuumed by a ten year old) before our new arrangement worked. But once the kids knew I was onto them and once again in charge, they stopped half assing their chores and I found myself with a few extra minutes of spare time on my hands.
Joke, Joke, Joke. So. Talking about sex, drugs and rock n roll is not a fun or comfortable conversation to have with your kids. They are embarrassed. You’re not sure how much or how little you should be talking about. It’s awkward but something that needs to be had. To help ease into those conversations and to help keep that line of communication open, I joke a lot about the subjects with my kids. Now, I don’t turn sex into a joking matter but I do talk about it in a lighter tone. For instance, one of the teens was having a physical and the doctor didn’t give me a warning before he checked out the balls…it was awkward for me; my teen was dying. What did I do? “So, how are his balls doing? Seem ok? I want to be a grandmother one day…” Keep that line of communication open with your kids. Joke and make light of the tough situations. Just remember to not joke about things they will take personally, like their changing voice. Teenage boys do not like being told their voice is squeaking like Mickey Mouse. (Thank you darling 5 year old sister for that comment.)
Know Who Their Friends Are. I will not lie and say raising teenagers is easy. It is not. I am always worried about something. To keep an eye out on the kids and to ease my anxiety, we have turned our house into the place the kids want to hang out at. We have four xboxes set up so a large group of kids can play. We have a basketball hoop, an air hockey table, a bazillion and one footballs, baseballs, basketballs, whatever kind of balls. We have opened up our house to their friends so we can get to know them and their personalities. When they are here, they get their space. As long as they are behaved, polite and somewhat calm, we let them be.
Be Present at their Extracurricular Activities. I know people have to work and sometimes your schedule will not allow you time to sit through a two hour practice. But if you can, do it. I sit through practices, games, whatever. I don’t miss them. It is sometimes extremely tiring and boring but I do it. When your kid sees you sitting on the bleachers while they are in the batting cages or shooting 100 free throws, they aren’t thinking “haha, Mom’s butt must be so numb from sitting on that uncomfortable metal for two hours.” No. That is you thinking that. Kids notice what we do for them, whether they say something or not. They see you sitting there, night after night, game after game. They may not understand the devotion from you now but they will understand (and remember you sitting there) when they one day become parents.
Every once in awhile, shock the hell out of them. My kids are so accustomed to me telling them no that they are shocked when, every once in awhile, I say yes. The tweens have been asking me forever if they could stay up all night. My answer is always no. I don’t want to deal with the wrath of attitude that would follow the next day. One night, the boys half asked, half mumbled, knowing their attempt would fail. To their utter shock and amazement, I said YES! Well, you’d thought Christmas had come early. Sometimes dealing with the shitastic wrath of overtired kids is worth the shock and awe look on their faces.
Tell Your Kid(s) NO. Now that you have thrown an unexpected yes into their day, it’s time to reign them back into reality. Entitlement has become a big issue in our house. Major actually. They all want the newest electronic. They all want phones. They all want social media accounts. This entitlement factor is by far the hardest thing I have had to tackle as a parent. There is a fine line between balancing technology and kids. Don’t do it right, major problems and consequences can occur. You have to remember that you are the parent and have the right to say NO to any or all of these issues. Kids need to learn that things in life are not handed to you on a silver platter. Kids need to learn the meaning of the word NO. Kids need to remember that life occurs outside the screen of whatever electronic device they are staring at.(Barbara Greenberg wrote an excellent article on this topic. Click here to read it.)
Don’t Expect Them to be Perfect. Kids are kids. They are messy, loud, pain in the butts and far from perfect. Stop expecting them to be perfect little angels each and every minute of the day. Tweens and teens are a special group of human beings. They roll their eyes, forget how to speak, cop an attitude, and test their limits. They won’t ace every test or do every single homework assignment. I stopped expecting anything from them, instead telling them that I expect them to try their hardest at whatever it is (large or small) they are doing. If I see that they try their hardest and only get a C or score only one basket, I am happy. If I see that they got a C but they didn’t study, I have a problem.
Family Game Night. Family Game Night is a pain in the butt. I will admit it. Looking forward to it is hard. Inevitably someone ends up crying, someone ends up being picked on the entire game,and someone storms off before the game is over. Although Family Game Night is sometimes more hassle than it is fun, it is time spent together as a family. It’s the small moments that count sometimes more than the bigger ones. And one day we will all be able to look back and laugh at all the tears and torture that occurred…
Listen. Sometimes you have to be quiet, put down your iPhone, mute the television and listen to your kids. Your kids will talk to you as long as they know you are willing to listen to what they have to say. Let them speak. Save your opinions until they are done. Compromise with them if there is compromise to be had. Help them if they need help. Offer advice or tell a story of something you did that may help them relate to a situation.
Love Them. Tell your tweens and teens you love them. My boys hate when I say “I love you” in public or when they are getting out of the car at school but I say it anyway. You never know if that will be the last time you will ever say those words to them. They may not answer you back but at least they heard it.
So what do you think? Good advice? Bad advice? Are you going to try any of this advice out?
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